Time to make the puddings
A lighter version or the traditional full works? Georgina Campbell compiles the best Christmas pudding and cake recipes
Making the pudding is traditionally the first big preparation in the countdown to Christmas, and it’s great fun to get all the family involved.
Children love the rituals, such as adding a lucky silver sixpence (nowadays a coin hygienically wrapped in foil), and, of course, everyone should stir the pudding and make a wish. Using top-quality ingredients makes all the difference, and good mid-range ingredients are available from grocers and supermarkets.
There are shops that specialise in luscious, premiumquality dried fruit too, if your budget allows it.
Three of Ireland's most discerning suppliers, renowned for their outstanding baking ingredients, are: Peter and Mary Ward at Country Choice, 25 Kenyon Street, Nenagh, Co Tipperary (067 32596; www.country choice.ie); Jim Tynan at The Kitchen & Foodhall, Hynds Square, Portlaoise, Co Laois (057 866 2061; www.kitchenfoodhall.com); and the Cronin family at The Gourmet Shop, Rathgar, Dublin 6 (01 497 0365; www.the gourmetshop.ie). All carry a great range of speciality seasonal products that would be excellent choices for gift hampers.
Along with my own favourite recipe, renowned bakers Jenny Bristow, Neven Maguire and Catherine Leyden have also shared their favourites — while Kevin Dundon has a guide to Christmas cakes.
JENNY BRISTOW’S CRANBERRY AND BLUEBERRY CHRISTMAS PUDDING
Serves eight to 10
YOU WILL NEED
110g/4oz fresh cranberries
225g/8oz dried cranberries
110g/4oz fresh or dried blueberries
110g/4oz pecan nuts, roughly chopped
110g/4oz glacé cherries, chopped
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 apple, peeled and grated
2 dsps maple syrup
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground cinnamon
6 tbsps bourbon
225g/8oz soft brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
110g/4oz plain flour, sifted
110g/4oz white or brown breadcrumbs
1-2 tbsps bourbon, to flame
Place the fresh cranberries in a small saucepan and cook over a very low heat for a few minutes, just until they have softened a little. Then pour the cooked cranberries and any juice into a large bowl. Add the dried cranberries, blueberries, pecan nuts, sultanas, cherries, orange zest and orange juice, apple, maple syrup, spices and bourbon. Cover with cling film and leave for 24 hours to allow the fruits to absorb the liquid and plump up.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add a little beaten egg, a little flour and some of the breadcrumbs, then mix. Do not add all the egg without the flour and breadcrumbs as this will cause the mixture to curdle. Repeat until the egg, flour and breadcrumbs are used up.
Mix in the steeped fruits until thoroughly combined. Grease two 900g/2lb pudding basins. Divide the mixture between the basins. Cover with a secure lid or a double layer of well-greased greaseproof paper, making a fold in the paper to allow for expansion during cooking. Top with folded foil. Tie securely with string or use an elastic band, and boil or steam for 3½ to four hours. Store the puddings for one to two weeks.
Boil or steam for one hour before serving. Turn out on to a large plate. Heat the bourbon in a small pan for a few seconds. Pour it over the hot pudding and immediately set it alight. If the pudding has cooled slightly, light the bourbon in the pan first.